In Memoriam: Aaron Moore

Aaron Stephen Moore (1972–2019) whose scholarship shaped a new terrain for the history of technology in twentieth-century Asia, was a Visiting Scholar at the MPIWG in 2017. His first book, the monograph Constructing East Asia (Stanford University Press 2013, Paperback 2015), examined Japan’s colonial infrastructure building in northeast China and Korea and its consequences for postwar Asia.Aaron Moore Aaron’s critical attention to developmental technology as well as its social, environmental, and postcolonial consequences, conspicuous in his Journal for Asian Studies article on dam construction on the Yalu River, has received much attention from the field and inspired many younger historians to engage in the history of technology in their dissertations. He also consistently worked to strengthen understandings of technoscientific histories of Japan by connecting scholars of diverse backgrounds, as exemplified by a 2014 workshop held at Arizona State University, where he was an associate professor, that culminated in a collection of essays, “Japan before Disaster Studies,” in Technology and Culture, edited with Lisa Onaga in 2017. Part of his work at the MPIWG was published in his last publication, Engineering Asia, a multinational collaboration work edited by Moore, together with John DiMoia and Hiromi Mizuno (Bloomsbury 2018). The Japanese translation of his monograph, carried out in close consultation with Aaron by a team of scholars and students directed by Togo Tsukahara, was published in November 2019 with Jinbun Shoin under the title “Daitōa” wo kensetu suru: Teikoku Nihon no Gijutsu to Ideorogii.[1]

Aaron was born in Japan and raised in a polyglot environment. His father, Stephen William Moore, worked for the US Peace Corps in Korea, completed a Master’s degree at the University of Washington, and was then deployed by the US State Department in a wide range of international sites (Seoul, Tokyo, Vienna). His mother, Lisa Chung Park Moore, held a comparably diverse background as a writer and Korean-language trainer. Aaron grew up in this culturally and intellectually rich environment, engaging with at least four languages (English, Japanese, Korean, German), proficient in each to a high degree, and living in a variety of international settings. Aaron did his undergraduate work at University of Virginia, lived in Japan as a teacher with JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) upon graduation, and received his PhD from Cornell University in 2006. He was married to the ethnomusicologist Nilanjana Bhatthacharjya.

While at the MPIWG, he lived in Schöneberg, and contributed to the upcoming book from the working group, “Post-colonial Planning” in Department III, currently in review. Simultaneously he worked on his highly ambitious and widely anticipated second book, Damming Asia, for which Aaron gathered Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Burmese archival and oral materials on colonial and postcolonial dam building throughout East and Southeast Asia. One chapter of this work—the Japanese–Korean collaboration on the Soyang-gang Dam—was presented this past summer as a keynote lecture at a Korean studies forum held at Tubingen University and generated a lively discussion on “chicken trauma,” a phenomenon in which farmers dealt with dam construction by seeking compensation for the poor productivity of their animals.

Aaron was a field-shaker, an inspiring collaborator, and a true friend to so many at the MPIWG and in the history of science and technology in Asia. He will be sorely missed.


[1] 『「大東亜」を建設する: 帝国日本の技術とイデオロギー)』